Former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch Named Co-Chair of Blue-Ribbon Task Force on Preserving Diversity in the Wake of the U.S. Supreme Court Ruling on Affirmative Action
Former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch is joining Brad Karp, chair of Paul, Weiss, and former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson as chairs of the New York State Bar Association’s blue-ribbon Task Force on Advancing Diversity.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 29 that decades of race-conscious policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The decision will have far-reaching implications in academia and beyond, said Richard Lewis, president of the New York State Bar Association.
“We are bringing together the brightest legal minds in New York and the nation to help guide colleges, businesses and government entities through this time of uncertainty,” Lewis said. “We are working with the chairs of major law firms, members of the judiciary, general counsel of preeminent businesses and representatives of academia to develop strategies for universities and businesses in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.”
Lynch, who is now a partner at Paul, Weiss, said the task force’s work is vital because universities are seeking strategies for maintaining diversity without considering race as one of the factors in evaluating students – the standard that both Harvard University and the University of North Carolina employed to diversify their student bodies and that the Supreme Court rejected.
“Through diversity we harness the value of our differences to create successful institutions, a stronger country and a ‘more perfect union.’ This is the issue, and the challenge, of our time,” Lynch said.
Task force members include the chairs of 15 prominent law firms, the chief legal officers of eight major corporations, five of New York’s distinguished judges and the deans of Columbia and NYU law schools.
Johnson, the first African American elected to partnership at Paul, Weiss in 1993 and a Columbia University trustee, spoke to CNN on Friday about the task force and his views on affirmative action. On Thursday, just hours after the Supreme Court released its decision, he discussed his personal experiences with diversity:
“For all my professional and personal life, I have seen the benefits of a diverse environment. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled, we must find the path forward,” he said. “Our task is to identity ways consistent with today’s decision to continue to foster an integrated, not a segregated, America.”
Karp, who speaks and writes frequently about pressing social justice issues, said the decision in favor of Students for Fair Admissions will undoubtedly spur even more high-profile legal challenges to corporate diversity programs, which are already on the rise.
Karp said, “Our long history of breaking down barriers has taught us that diversity of thought makes our colleges, our businesses, our law firms and our courts stronger and more effective. We will never achieve true equity in our society if we are willing to sacrifice diversity. Preserving diversity by all lawful means is a social imperative.”
In addition to Karp, the chairs of fourteen major law firms are serving on the task force:
Neil Barr, chair, Davis Polk.
Barbara Becker, chair, Gibson Dunn.
Brad Butwin, chair, O’Melveny & Myers.
Eric Friedman, executive partner, Skadden.
Peter Furci, presiding partner, Debevoise.
Michael Gerstenzang, managing partner, Cleary Gottlieb.
David Greenwald, chair, Fried Frank.
Adam Klein, managing partner, Outten & Golden.
Kim Koopersmith, chair, Akin.
Anthony Lupo, chair, ArentFox Schiff.
Julie Jones, chair, Ropes & Gray.
Alden Millard, chair, Simpson, Thacher.
Faiza Saeed, presiding partner, Cravath.
Barry Wolf, chair, Weil, Gotshal & Manges.
The general counsel/chief legal officers of eight large corporations have joined the task force:
Deneen Donnley, senior vice president and the general counsel of Con Ed.
Stacey Friedman, general counsel, JP Morgan Chase.
Jose Gonzalez, chief legal officer, Equitable.
Eric Grossman, chief legal officer and chief administrative officer, Morgan Stanley.
Kimberley Harris, general counsel, NBC Universal.
Sandra Leung, executive vice president and general counsel of Bristol-Myers Squibb and the president of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association.
Deirdre Stanley, general counsel, Estee Lauder.
Julie Swidler, general counsel, SONY Music, and chair, Union College Board of Trustees.
The task force also includes prominent judges, academics and attorneys:
T. Andrew Brown, former vice chancellor of the New York Board of Regents, managing partner at Brown Hutchinson and past NYSBA president.
Justice Cheryl Chambers, Appellate Division, Second Department.
Nishka Chandrasoma, vice president, chief legal officer and secretary, Ford Foundation.
Vince Chang, partner, Wollmuth Maher & Deutsch.
Anne Clark, managing partner, Vladeck, Raskin & Clark.
Mike Delikat, former chair of Orrick’s Global Employment Law Practice and a partner in the New York office.
Lissette Duran, senior counsel, Paul, Weiss.
Gillian Lester, dean of Columbia Law School.
Kapil Longani, senior vice chancellor for legal affairs and general counsel, State University of New York.
Troy McKenzie, dean of NYU Law School.
Alicia Ouellette, former dean of Albany Law School.
Judge Edwina Richardson-Mendelson, chief administrative judge for justice initiatives, New York State Unified Court System.
Supervising Judge of the Family Court Richard Rivera, acting Supreme Court justice, Albany County, and co-chair of the Franklin H. Williams Judicial Commission.
Jill Rosenberg, a New York employment law partner, Orrick.
Kathleen Sweet, Gibson, McAskill & Crosby.
Liza Velasquez, partner, Paul, Weiss.
Associate Justice Lillian Wan, Appellate Division, Second Department.
Associate Justice Troy Webber, Appellate Division, First Department.